Mudlark Poster No. 97 (2011)

Extraordinary Powers
Poems by Philip Rush

Three Cheers for Dina Vierny

Died January 20th 2009
And, as I was saying,
the whole mansion, it’s just up from the Rodin,
is full of Maillol’s work, though
with a space I seem to recall
for a temporary show on the ground floor.

Everything he did was in dark bronze.
Room after room of hunky females
sprawled in their contented undress
and each one set like frozen Marmite.
Who can resist stroking them?

Caroline says they beg to be stroked
the way women want to be stroked —
I think she means, why don’t you stroke me like that? —
but they’re larger than lifesize, cold to the touch
and, of course, purely Platonic solids.

Maillol did commissions, often for ‘memorials and the like’ —
in fact, that phrase is a verbatim translation
from his ad in the pages jaunes —
and this would involve the usual toing and froing,
the usual formal correspondence about money and schedules.

In the end, the mayor
of some backwater commune with a windfall
would come to the point and ask,
‘M. Maillol, what form do you think our memorial might take?’
You can hear the tactful trepidation in his pen.

And M. Maillol,
a dyed-in-the-wool Catalan, by the way,
would clear his throat as he dipped his nib and reply,
‘I was thinking of
a large reclining female nude.’

Wednesday, June 23, 2010: The System

On Channel 103 it’s Ghana Germany
playing each other to a standstill.
Black men white shirts black shirts white men
Black socks white shorts black shorts white socks
Sweet Gene Vincent.
On Channel 120 it’s Australia Serbia
playing each other to a standstill. Nil 
nil after an hour. On Channel 102 it’s
the World’s Longest Tennis Match
and the last set stands at 56 all
with no sign of cracking. A small boy 
has shouted out, “What is the point?”
which made everyone feel uncomfortable 
including Tim the Henman who’s adopted
a celebrity pose on the upper level.
We expect the players to begin relationships
with the ball-girls during banana time
and to marry them in due course
during an on-court wedding service. Ace.
Already, the players have changed racquets twice
as technology has caught them up and overtaken.
68 minutes and Germany have scored
and Australia equalised, breaking Isner’s 
serve at long, long last. The permutations
are complex and Stan & Stats have come on 
to explain. Stats asks, How does it, Stan?
And Stan says, Goals scored goal difference.
Game goes with serve. On channel AV2, 
we have a video recording of the children
playing football on the field circa 1991
with the lads up Ocker Hill, the posh boys
from the big houses and a family on holiday
at The Bourne. It’s 13-12 and it’s time for tea
which will spoil if it’s kept in the oven any longer
but nobody cares, playing on in shirts of sweaty
endeavour. Next goal wins until it’s 13 all
and then next goal wins again. They’re dead
on their feet. Isner’s made it two nil with
a great strike against Serbia and the 117th game
has gone to serve. Things, says the man, could get
rather intriguing. On teletext Gloucestershire
have been stuffed by Essex in the Twenty20,
like they were a gaudy cushion cover and Essex
were some cheap kapok from Romford Market.  
118 all out. Another goal from Germany would
certainly set up some kind of finale. But wait.

Black Coat

This is the black coat in which you said farewell.
I imagine you chose it carefully.
I notice a small metal button missing now from the left cuff.

I imagine you said to yourself,
somewhere in your beautiful black heart,
This is the coat, this is the black coat in which to say farewell.

Now mine. Found on eBay when the black demons
possessed my browser. I stroke it like a crap Aladdin.
I no longer need encouragement or opportunity.

They led me there, straight there. Well,
you didn’t know, but I’d had you as a favourite seller
ever since I’d used an online auction to replace what once had been

one of my most valued LPs. Only to get my own back
in the post, all these years later, for £8.49 plus postage.
With the guitarist’s autograph exactly where I remembered it,

and the tiny hiccup on side two track three
just as I recalled.
So thanks for that. 

Extraordinary Powers

Isn’t it lovely to meet someone
	with extraordinary powers of observation?

I’m thinking chiefly here
	of what teachers used to call ‘nature walks’ 

where someone who is confident
	with the identification of raptors

or who knows where to look for fungi or the spoor of invisible mammals
	can be hugely interesting.

Similarly, someone in the back seat
	who can turn a motorway journey into a festival of fact

simply through a faultless knowledge
	of every make of European car.

Or maybe the man on the long-distance bus
	fresh from some extra-mural course and full of rural history and anecdote.

Or the girl I told you about before
	who knows the names of every faint star, every delicate constellation.

Of course, I aspire to be just such a person
	and I want you to let me guide you on one of my favourite walks

e.g. through the Slad woods
	or around the Standish circuit we love so much.

I want you to be as impressed as I am
	by someone like me.

Modish Boots

The trees know what they’re doing.
They’re as rehearsed as a Busby Berkeley orgasm
	or the final tableau
	at the Moulin Rouge.

One blink, and the whole scene reconvenes
into a Modigliani nude, her thighs
	tattooed with autumn
	and cadmium sunshine.

Meanwhile, the couple checking in are dressed
in glamorous shades of black. They speak
	the unmediated language
	of a phrase book

to confirm the arrangements for swimming
and for the beauty treatments in the spa
	and they cannot take
	their eyes off each other

as if they’ve taken off already those expensive clothes
and folded them neatly over period chairs.
	In the morning 
	they will be out on the lawn

where heavy dew will bruise their modish boots,
where they will hold their pose just so, to complete
	the picture with some 
	classical allusion or other.

Philip Rush’s first full collection, Big Purple Garden Paintings, was short-listed for the prestigious Aldeburgh First Collection Prize in England, but didn’t win. Rush lives in Stroud in Gloucestershire where he plays the electric violin for fun. He has recently been involved in organising a ‘Lorca in England’ festival which included an international translation competition judged by Mark Statman and Pablo Medina.

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